DUBAI // The former boyfriend of Kerry Winter, the woman whose disappearance last summer provoked international attention, stalked his victim for days before bludgeoning her with a baseball bat and dumping her body offshore, a court heard yesterday. Mark Arnold was arrested five days after Ms Winter went missing on Aug 20 and he was charged last month with premeditated murder. He pleaded not guilty yesterday before the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance.
Mr Arnold, a Briton, is alleged to have stuffed Ms Winter's body in a suitcase, weighted it down and dumped it into the sea. The body has not been found. Ismail Ibrahim, a prosecutor, asked the court to impose the harshest penalty under law if the defendant was found guilty, which in cases of premeditated murder means death. Ms Winter, 36, from South Africa, was last seen outside her villa in Al Barsha. Neighbours told prosecutors they saw Mr Arnold beating her with a baseball bat before dragging her into a car and driving away.
The prosecution is trying to prove Mr Arnold planned the murder and stalked his victim for at least four days before killing her. Prosecutors previously claimed he had confessed to the killing - a claim denied by his lawyers. Mr Arnold was seen by one of Ms Winter's neighbours in Al Barsha brandishing the bat while she lay on the ground outside her villa with blood pouring from her head, the court was told. Two of the victim's friends told prosecutors that on the night in question Ms Winter had told them Mr Arnold was following her in his car.
The prime prosecution witness, a Lebanese neighbour of Ms Winter, Z T, said he came out of his home after hearing loud screams and found Ms Winter on the ground "bleeding heavily from her head and calling to him for help". Z T said he then looked behind him and saw the defendant raising a silver-coloured baseball bat as though he were about to strike him, so he ran back inside. The evidence was presented to the court in the form of written witness testimony.
Another witness, M E, who worked at a local hypermarket, said the defendant contacted him by phone on Aug 16 and asked to purchase a GPS tracking device and three burlap sacks. He also asked for "the largest suitcase available". Prosecutors claim Mr Arnold took Ms Winter's body to Mina Seyahi, boarded his yacht and sailed out for 20 to 30 minutes before throwing the body overboard. Mr Arnold appeared in court yesterday for a brief hearing dressed in white prison uniform.
His lawyer, Youssef Hammad, asked the court for an adjournment to obtain a copy of the case file, study it and prepare his defence. Hussein al Jazeiri, a lawyer representing Ms Winter's brother, Kurt Winter, also filed a civil compensation claim with the court. Judge Hamad Abdullatif adjourned the case until April 23. Ms Winter's disappearance sparked a search, headed by her brother, who came to the UAE from South Africa determined to find her alive.
Mr Winter drew attention to his sister's disappearance with posters, leaflets and a Facebook web page dedicated to finding her. The case attracted attention in the family's home country. The Daily News of Durban reported that Mr Winter, in his quest for information on the case, recently met Jacob Zuma, the president of the African National Congress, to ask for help. A spokesman said Mr Zuma would do what he could.